The need to close the gap between cops and the community has become increasingly apparent in recent years. Typically, law-abiding citizens only get to know the cops in their community through the lens of public spectacle and negative media attention. To change that situation, the NYPD has been systematically restructuring its patrol plan. Neighborhood policing, Police Commissioner James O'Neill's comprehensive plan to increase police and community connectivity, is helping New York City residents get to know cops in a brand new way.
Starting in spring 2015, neighborhood policing is designed to greatly increase the connectivity that Commissioner O'Neill talks about without diminishing, and while actually improving, the NYPD's crime-fighting capabilities.
Neighborhood policing divides precincts into four or five fully staffed sectors that correspond, as much as possible, to the boundaries of actual existing neighborhoods. Sector officers work the same neighborhoods on the same shifts, increasing their familiarity with the local residents and local problems. The radio dispatchers, supervisors, and sector officers work together to maintain "sector integrity," meaning that the sector officers and sector cars do not leave the boundaries of their assigned sectors, except in genuine emergencies. Neighborhood policing seeks to foster a sense of ownership among sector officers for the people, the problems, and even the perpetrators in a particular sector; a sense of geographic responsibility and accountability.
Neighborhood policing is sufficiently staffed to permit off-radio time for the sector officers, so they are not exclusively assigned to answering calls. The off-radio time is used to engage with neighborhood residents, identify problems, and work toward solutions. Sector officers have 33 percent of their eight-hour tours, or about two hours and 20 minutes each day, devoted to community-based, proactive, and problem-solving activities.
Supporting the sector officers and filling out each sector team are two officers designated as the neighborhood coordination officers (NCOs). The NCOs are conceived as liaisons between the police and the community, but also as key crime fighters and problem-solvers in the sector. They spend time familiarizing themselves with the community to better respond to neighborhood-specific crime and other conditions. The NCOs attend community meetings with neighborhood leaders and clergy, visit schools, follow up on previous incidents, and use creative techniques and adaptive skills to fight crime and contend with other problems in their particular sectors.
Under neighborhood policing, and with the help of concerned citizens, NCOs and sector officers are closing the divide between cops and community while continuing to keep New York City neighborhoods safe.